Stop 18-Zion National Park

Stop 18-Zion National Park

“Even though the rock was desert Sandstone, it definitely doesn’t feel like a desert.  It’s more of an oasis with beautiful hanging gardens along the cliffside, waterfalls, and decently sized pools of water…”

The Beginning

Back to Utah!  We already journeyed to three other National Parks in this state earlier in our trip, but we couldn’t leave out these two.  So, we went back!  (We actually planned it out this way).

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Coming from Las Vegas, we didn’t want to have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to claim a campground (we were actually still up from the night before at that time), so we actually traveled only as far as our booked Airbnb that day.  We would head into the Zion National Park the following day.

This Airbnb was another gem!  We had the whole basement to ourselves and slept in a ginormous king bed.  It was almost too big.  We were practically swimming in it!

We left our cozy bed pretty early that morning to head into Zion and stake our claim at the South Campground.  We arrived around 6:30 that morning and there was already a line of cars starting to develop to get a spot in the campground.  This campground was a little different than the others we’d been to thus far.  It was a first-come-first-served campground, but you were assigned your site by the campground host, who didn’t start assigning people until around seven o’clock.  Luckily, we got their earlier enough to be close to the front of the line.  We still waited about an hour or so to get our assignment.

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Once we set up our site, we headed over to the visitor center (you can actually just walk there from the South Campground) and hopped on a shuttle bus.  We really love the shuttle systems at the National Parks!

The Middle

Riding through Zion was amazing!  Like Yosemite National Park, as you ride through the canyon, you are surrounded by sheer rock cliffs soaring up thousands of feet above your head.  It’s mesmerizing!  The canyon was shaped by the Virgin River, whose name is very fitting.  This was some of the clearest river water we’d ever seen.  It looked completely pure, (key word “looked”) which we didn’t expect in desert filled Utah!

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About 40 miles away, a wildfire was ablaze, so there was a lot of haze in the air, along with a consistent smell of a campfire.

Our first stop was the Emerald Pools, where we completed the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools hikes.  This hike showed us that we had no idea what to expect from Zion.  It was wonderful!  Even though the rock was desert Sandstone, it definitely doesn’t feel like a desert.  It’s more of an oasis with beautiful hanging gardens along the cliffside, waterfalls, and decently sized pools of water (we may have gotten there a little late/early in the season).  It was almost magical!

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After that hike, it was starting to get a little too warm for hiking, so we headed to the visitor center again to walk through the exhibits and cool off.  We then headed back to the campground to make some grub and hang out by the river.

That evening we took a scenic drive along the Mount Carmel Highway to the eastern side of the Park where the shuttle buses don’t run.  This side of the park was a little more familiar to us and more what we originally expected to see at Zion.  It was filled with slick rock and beautiful layers of different-colored sediment.

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The scenic drive takes you through a tunnel that’s a mile long!  It felt like we were in the darkness forever!  The highlight of the drive though?  We got to see one of the elusive symbols of Zion; long-horned sheep!  Practically a herd of them (okay, maybe like 6 or 7 of them)!

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Later, we attended a ranger-led program about astronomy at the Zion Lodge.  Zion is an International Dark Sky Park, like many of the other parks in Utah, so we got to look at a lot of stars!  Going to the program just gave us a little more information about what we were seeing when we looked up at night.

The End

The next day, we were lucky enough to catch a seat on a Ranger-led bus tour through the park.  We really like ranger-led programs!  It was a great tour with a lot of information and history.  Not to mention, a little information about the National Park Service that we didn’t know!

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After the tour, we hiked a bit of the Narrows trail.  This trail was really cool and different.  You are actually just hiking through the water (the Virgin River) with sheer cliffs on either side of you!  It was really fun, and you don’t have to deal with the heat of mid-day too much!

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Well, that was basically all we had time for at this park, but it became one of the top contenders in our list of favorite National Parks!  It was a little busy, but any wait was worth it!  We want to come back to do the Angels Landing hike and explore this place even further!

P.S.

You’ll get to hear about our adventures at Bryce Canyon in the next post!  Also, go ahead and follow us Facebook and Instagram!  There’s a lot of fun and adventures there too!


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